5 Undrafted Jacksonville Jaguars Players Who Could Prove to Be Gems
The Jacksonville Jaguars may have found four undrafted gems for their developing defense. There is also room for a talented tight end who combines imposing size with dynamic move skills.
Defensively, the Jags added a versatile outside pass-rusher perfectly suited to head coach Gus Bradley's hybrid schemes. He is joined by a hulking interior lineman who could play inside or outside in this scheme.
Bradley will also welcome a pair of new faces to a defensive backfield that has been steadily rebuilt to execute a more physical, aggressive system.
Here are the rookie free agents who could prove to be gems in Jacksonville.
Marcus Whitfield, DE, Maryland
The Jaguars have not been shy about loading up on pass-rushers this offseason. Specifically, Bradley and general manager David Caldwell have made versatile edge-rushers a priority.
The team signed veteran ex-Seattle Seahawks starter Chris Clemons. The Jaguars also used a fifth-round pick on tweener Chris Smith.
All three fit the mold of the most important position in Bradley's defensive scheme, namely the "Leo." That's the moniker applied to the roving, outside pass-rusher who combines the qualities of a defensive end and outside linebacker.
Former Maryland ace Marcus Whitfield is another player who fits that description. At 6'3" and 250 pounds, Whitfield has the lean frame and quickness to stand up as an outside linebacker.
He also boasts the initial quickness and upper body power to put his hand down and rush from a three-point stance. Whitfield has the physical attributes and production Bradley is looking for from his Leo.
During his final season at Maryland, Whitfield logged nine sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss, per cfbstats.com. But despite his impressive numbers, Whitfield is entering a very crowded position group.
As well as Clemons and Smith, the Jags also have Andre Branch, Ryan Davis and Gerald Rivers on the roster. Of course, pass-rusher is the one position a team can't have too many weapons at in the modern NFL, especially a team that managed a meager 31 sacks in 2013, per NFL.com.
Given his natural scheme suitability, a strong offseason could push Whitfield ahead of the incumbents in the situational rotation.
Craig Loston, S, LSU
As one of the architects of the Seattle Seahawks' famed "Legion of Boom" secondary, Bradley appreciates defensive backs who can deliver a whack to opposing receivers.
That's just what the coach has in ex-LSU safety Craig Loston. He is a big hitter who has yet to refine his overall coverage technique.
However, Loston has a decent pedigree coming out of LSU. The school has been a mini factory for pro-ready defensive backs in recent seasons.
Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid and Tyrann Mathieu all became starters as rookies in the last two years. The latter pair made instant impacts in their respective schemes.
As an undrafted player, it may be asking too much for Loston to follow exactly the same path. But he is entering a position with no clear starter.
Loston was signed to push for time at free safety alongside unconvincing pair Winston Guy and Josh Evans, according to ESPN.com reporter Michael DiRocco.
However, the question marks over Loston's range and the angles he takes in deep coverage could hold him back. But if the raw edges of his game can be refined by coaching, Loston will join Johnathan Cyprien to give Bradley two bruisers at the heart of his secondary.
Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oregon State
It's not just safety where Bradley wants more physicality in 2014. His cornerbacks must be willing to rough up receivers at the line and hit for keeps when the ball comes their way.
That helps explain the decision to sign ex-Oregon State corner Rashaad Reynolds. A former quarterback, Reynolds has good instincts for reading the eyes of an opposing passer and pouncing on errant throws from off-coverage.
Despite a lack of elite size, the 5'10", 191-pounder also isn't shy about seeking out contact. Reynolds is a hitter who closes on his target quickly and usually delivers a stout, form tackle.
What could hinder his chances of making the grade in Jacksonville are his struggles as a press corner. Reynolds is best as a zone cover man, able to spy the backfield.
However, Bradley has tended to prefer a more physical approach. Although unlike in Seattle, he doesn't have Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner out on the edges.
Yet the Jaguars are still well-stocked with Will Blackmon, Alan Ball and Dwayne Gratz. However, in an AFC South dominated by the aerial excellence of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Jacksonville needs a deep rotation of quality cornerbacks.
Reynolds has an excellent chance of being part of such a group.
Deandre Coleman, DT, California
Like Whitfield, Deandre Coleman is a player flexible enough to fit what Bradley likes to do with his front seven. The first thing Coleman offers is imposing size at 6'5" and 315 pounds.
The Jaguars need a few more big bodies along the interior. They parted ways with ex-New England Patriots Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love, leaving the front line a little light inside.
Nose tackle Roy Miller is 6'2" and 310 pounds, but Sen'Derrick Marks and new arrival Ziggy Hood are both 3-techniques, lighter and quicker players who can rush the passer.
Coleman can be the stout mass in the middle last season's 29th-ranked run defense needs. CBS Sports draft writer Rob Rang perfectly described Coleman's bulky frame and how he uses it:
Certainly looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman, boasting broad shoulders, a relatively trim middle and tree trunks for legs. Good power at the point of attack, including the upper-body strength to split the occasional double-team.
Extends his arms nicely to keep blockers away from his chest, demonstrating the ability to shed and get a hand on ball-carriers if they attempt to run near him.
The last part of that description is important. It highlights Coleman's ability to absorb and occupy multiple blockers. It's a skill that usually belongs in a 3-4 defense, but will suit Bradley's hybrid front.
Coleman has the attributes to play anywhere along the interior, but could also be shifted outside to play 5-technique defensive end. That's the position Bradley dubs "Elephant" in this scheme.
It will be manned by former Seattle Seahawks behemoth Red Bryant this season. But Coleman has a great chance to earn snaps rotating with Bryant, as well as providing solid depth inside.
Marcel Jensen, TE, Fresno State
The Jaguars added a trio of undrafted tight ends, but Marcel Jensen is easily the most intriguing. The former Fresno State player has a massive build, perfect for blocking duties in a traditional in-line role.
However, it's the 6'6", 264-pounder's potential as a receiver that really bears watching. It's a potential that went relatively untapped in the collegiate game.
Jensen caught just 26 passes in 2013, per cfbstats.com. But his size, length, leaping ability and underrated acceleration are assets that should be used more often at the pro level.
If they are, then Jensen can be a matchup nightmare. Not many linebackers will effectively track him, while few defensive backs will be eager to compete for the ball with the tall and beefy receiver.
What the Jaguars have here is an extremely raw prospect just waiting to be molded into a serviceable NFL pass-catcher. At the very least, Jensen will be a useful blocker in a running game that will be defined by power in 2014.
If he's given more chances as a receiver, Jensen will also earn playing time at a position that is wide open, with neither Clay Harbor or Marcedes Lewis particularly impressive last season.
As they've done most of this offseason, the Jaguars found exciting talent on the defensive side of the ball. Players such as Reynolds and Coleman have a genuine chance of making the final roster and actively contributing once the season begins.